It's pretty rare that I see more than one concert in a month, so when I saw two shows within three days, I figured the only way to do them both justice was a side-by-side review.
Robert Plant/Allison Krauss
The Raising Sand Revue
|Blurry Overexposed Cell Phone Picture|
|Synopsis||80s college radio giants return to form with a new hard-rocking album determined to win-over a new generation of fans.||Heavy-metal legend teams with bluegrass diva to apply their respective talents to a smörgåsbord of roots and blues tunes.|
|Opening Act||The National put on a quick paced thirty minute set that impressed me with good tunes played well. They are a bit of a kitchen sink band with a violinist, trombonist and trumpet player. Several songs are intriguing enough to hunt down on iTunes.|
Less to my taste was Modest Mouse whose aggressive sweaty playing was just working too hard.
|Newly minted recording artist Sharon Little claims to have been waiting tables six months ago and seemed genuinely giddy to be on stage. She had a strong bluesy voice that hit both high and low notes. Her all-original music written with band-mate Scott Sax was traditional but powerful.|
T Bone Burnett also had two song sent in the middle of the show. I used it for a much needed power-nap.
|Stage Presence||Michael Stipe came dressed in a suit and tie that was both stylish and subversive. He has an oddly comforting politeness while introducing songs. His spastic wobbling and careening around stage is fascinating in its complete lack of pretense or grace. His endorsement of Obama drew a mixed reaction. My son who was in the cheaper seats claims it was all cheers, while where I was I heard plenty of boo’s.||Robert Plant could easily have been The Dude’s cousin with his loose casual shirt and long flowing hair. He had an air of bemused easiness and occasionally just tossed out flourishes of his rock-god trademarked moves. Allison Krauss looked ethereal in a long flowing dress and floated around the stage like an angel.|
|Stage Show||A series of video screens behind the stage kept a quick paced very stylized video show going. While it was very visually arresting, it was not much help for shorter audience members that couldn’t see the stage and distracted from Stipe’s mesmerizing stage moves.||A simple backdrop curtain behind the stage with rather mundane lighting effects. Video screens on either side of the stage gave plenty of clear close-ups of the performers.|
|Amusing Anecdote||Michael Stipe was doing some sill audience participation stuff. He asked who was there right now and claimed it was not a trick question. Then he asked who was alive in 1979 when the band got started. My wife and I looked at each other and realized that had known each other as long as REM had been around.||Robert Plant asked who had been here in 1969. He then called them liars. He had been reminded that he had played that very stage with his "old mates" over 39 years ago as the opening act for The Who. His memory of the event seemed a little fuzzy, but he did recall that they caused such a ruckus that they had to use their earnings to buy new equipment before the next show.|
|Highlights||Lots of hits and older songs as kept the tempo from ever flagging. Mike Mills singing “(Don't Go Back To) Rockville” got the crowd going. Beyond the hits I enjoyed “Electrolite” which I had never heard before.||“The Battle of Evermore” done as a down-tempo Celtic epic is the clear crowd pleaser. More impressive was Krauss’s fully a capella version of “Down to the River to Pray” with Plant and others singing gospel harmony back-up.|
|Show Length||1 hour 55 minutes||2 hours even|
|Audience Demeanor||Ranging from distracted to obnoxious. The entire place stood the entire show which in inconvenient for shorter audience members, like my wife. The clods I talked about in this post seemed epidemic.||Polite and involved. The entire audience sat down less than a minute into the first song and stayed seated except for ovations and the last couple of numbers.|
|Noticeable Omissions||“The End of the World”||“Stairway to Heaven”|
|Other Reviews||The Washington Post had both a review in the dead trees edition and a song-by-song critique on their Post-Rock blog.||The New York Times review of the Madison Square Garden show applies here as well.|
|Verdict||REM puts on a big show, but big acts draw disinterest fans and rowdy audiences. It's almost not worth the trouble.||It's great to see a legend in action. Plant's voice is as strong as it ever was, but it would have been better to hear more material that made it famous.|
BlatantCommentWhoring™: Which show would you have rather seen (and for Courtney, which did you prefer)?